Delhi High Court hopes “for correction of the trial judge’s attitude” [Read judgment]

The Delhi High Court’s Justice Vipin Sanghi recently came down on a district judge Jitender Kumar Mishra, a Special Judge sitting in the Karkardooma District Courts in Delhi. Justice Sanghi was hearing a transfer petition that contended that the Special Judge was not conducting the proceedings in a fair and reasonable manner.

Senior Counsel Rebecca John, appeared for the petitioner, stating that the petitioner’s counsel was asked by the judge “to not participate in the proceedings” during the admission and denial of documents and to “leave it to the court”.

The said instance gave rise to a representation being made by the members of the Bar to the judge on the same day, complaining about the manner in which the judge was conducting the proceedings. The judge allegedly had a habit of making personal remarks against the advocates appearing before him.

The judge observed that since he had called upon the accused to admit or deny the documents and not the pleader of the accused, therefore, the counsel of the accused, could not interfere during the admission and denial of documents.

According to the petitioner, the way the judge proceeded with the case, gave rise to a genuine and reasonable apprehension that the treatment was not fair.

Sanjeev Bhandari, counsel for CBI, who were the respondents in the case before Justice Mishra argued that because the chargesheet in the case was filed  way back in 2001 and the trial commenced in 2016, the only endeavour of the judge was to expedite the trial. He also argued that the current transfer petition would become a tool in the hands of the accused to further delay the trial.

Justice Sanghi does note that the special judge in question was not made a party to the proceedings, and hence was not afforded an opportunity to rebut the allegations.

“While examining the materials relied upon by the petitioner, the Court would have to objectively evaluate the conduct of the learned Special Judge on the basis of the material placed on record.

It is equally true that everything that transpires in a courtroom does not necessarily get recorded in the orders passed by the presiding learned Judge.”

In the end though, Justice Sanghi did find merit in the petitioner’s case.

“No doubt, it is the concern of the SPP to see that the trial concludes early. It is also his concern to see that the accused succeeds in his prosecution. However, the Public Prosecutor is also an officer of the Court and, as such, it is his concern as well to act fairly and reasonably in the manner and guide the Court appropriately. It should also be his concern to see that the proceedings are conducted fairly and do not result in a mistrial.”

The bench further held,

“A Judge who does not honestly and fairly record the proceedings does the greatest injustice to the parties. A judge is supposed to have no personal interest in a case being tried or dealt with by him. He is always expected to truthfully record the proceedings conducted by him.

It is for this reason, that the proceedings recorded by a judge in his orders is accepted as true. If a judge breaches this trust reposed in him, it reflects on his credibility and on his independence and impartiality.”

The bench directed that a copy of the judgment also be served to the Special Judge, giving the following words of advice,

“A copy of this order shall also be communicated to the learned Special Judge, and it is hoped that the observations made hereinabove shall serve the purpose of correction in his attitude and approach in cases pending before him.

I may only remind the learned Special Judge of the off-quoted phrase that “Justice should not only be done but also be seen to be done”.

Read the full judgment below.